In the last few years, urban India has acquired a new coffee culture. International coffee chains are opening coffee shops and doing brisk business, even in smaller towns. While, south Indian filtered coffee has been a tradition, India in general is waking up to coffee.
Despite its growing popularity, most people believe coffee to be a somewhat toxic addiction, taken only as an indulgence or to overcome sleep and boost alertness. Several health concerns have been attributed to coffee drinking including its addictive nature, ill-effects on digestion, bone health, cardio-vascular health, disturbed sleep, high blood pressure, infertility and increased incidence in pancreatic or bladder cancer. Numerous studies, however, reveal that coffee consumption and caffeine do not contribute to cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and stroke, even in people who drink more than four cups of coffee a day.
Even though coffee does cause a transient increase in blood pressure, moderate coffee drinking does not pose a significant risk to hypertensives. A recent study reports that coffee is a major source of dietary anti-oxidants and may inhibit inflammation and thereby lower the risk of cardio-vascular diseases and other inflammatory diseases in post-menopausal women. Interestingly, numerous studies report that regular coffee consumption over long periods of time may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a study on the elderly revealed that coffee helped older people think better, improve their memory and reasoning skills. Caffeine may have a beneficial effect on weight loss as it has been shown to increase energy expenditure modestly. Caffeine, a natural stimulant, may positively affect athletic performance.
In spite of the good news, drinking coffee carries some concerns. It is certainly habit-forming and even a single cup of coffee a day contains enough caffeine to create the risk of withdrawal. In some people, it can induce heart-burn by boosting up acid production. For pregnant women, coffee consumption has been linked to risk of miscarriages. Caffeine is a diuretic, which increases output of urine, which can be a concern for men with prostrate problems. Since it is a stimulant, it can contribute to difficulty in falling asleep and may interfere with regular sleeping patterns. So, those sensitive to it, should avoid coffee at bed time.
In a nutshell, it is better to use a moderate common sense approach to coffee drinking. One or two cups a day should certainly not pose any risks for most people. Also, it does not increase the risk for any other health risk including heart disease, bone loss, cancer or infertility. People with irregular heart-beats (arrhythmias) and pregnant women are advised non-caffeinated beverages. Since coffee is a diuretic it must be avoided by individuals in sports as it can be dehydrating and affect their performance. So, next time you go for your favourite cup of coffee, be guilt-free, enjoy it and stay alert. It can be enjoyed by all if taken in moderation.